Today I’ve decided to be less grumpy. So there.
As I was getting dressed, a memory floated into my head of when I first started grad school and how excited I was. How much joy I got out of even the idea of being an academic. An intellectual. And somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten all bitter about it. I’m not exactly sure why (though I have some theories), but I do know that I gotta get over it.
I gotta get over it because the truth of the matter is that I love what I’m working on. It’s stimulating. And it’s a lot of work. But it’s a good kind of work and that kind of work that, ultimately, may turn out to be something that challenges people’s conceptions of Buddhism and (dare I say it?) may actually change the world. (Or at least one little part of it, but what more can one person do but to change just their own little corner of the world?)
And all this. This convention. These people. And the crap that I’m choosing to be bitter about, isn’t worth worrying about. I’ve already done exactly what I came here to do: make an appearance so people think that I actually care about being an academic. I already ran into another committee member this morning, so my job here is done.
But let me clarify. Because that’s not what I meant to say at all. I’m rambling. And thinking while typing, so forgive me. What I mean is this. I feel like I need to show up here. I need to show up here and other academic conferences and let people see my face. Maybe someday even present a paper or interview for a job. I need to do these things to show people that I do in fact care about being taken seriously. These things, these highly ritualized quasi-scoial games we play, that’s what they’re all about.
But past all that, I don’t care about being a certain type of academic. I’m not particularly interested in spending the next ten years of my life working myself to death on articles and books and teaching places I don’t want to teach in the hopes that I’ll get tenure. What I am interested in is learning everything I can about Buddhism and American Buddhism and the way folks study Buddhism and how their assumptions are often based on fallacies and then writing a dissertation that may turn into a book and teaching where I want to teach (San Quentin again?) and maybe going down that road to minister-hood. Those are the things I care about. And all these silly, highly ritualized, quasi-social games we play are merely means to an end. To that end.
I have a tendency to get lost in things. To loose my sense of self in something that isn’t what I really want. So I’ve got to keep my wits about me. Remember why I’m here. And remember that this is not a Them against Me type of situation. That there are people here who want to do the same thing I’m doing.
What’s more, I need to remember that this is but one aspect of my life. That this is but one facet of a life I’ve created for myself that includes a lot of wonderful and exciting and beautiful things. That I’m lucky. Blessed to have been given the opportunities I’ve been given. They’re gifts. And in the end, when you get a gift, there’s only one appropriate response.
To say thanks. And then get the hell on with your day.